Urgent need for guaranteed preschool funding: COAG review

A call to lock in five years of guaranteed Commonwealth funding for preschool is welcome recognition of the critical role early childhood education plays in giving every child the best chance of succeeding at school and beyond. 

According to media reports, the NOUS review of the Universal Access National Partnership for the COAG Education Council found that short-term renewals of preschool funding every year had “adversely” affected the universal access strategy. Insecure finding has created uncertainty for the sector, leading to high staff turnover and hindering the ability of preschools to plan and invest effectively.

AEU Federal president Correna Haythorpe said that guaranteed funding for early childhood education would be an essential step in providing equitable access and ensuring children’s readiness for school.

“Guaranteed funding for our early learning sector is a critically important investment in the future of our children,” Ms Haythorpe said. “The Universal Access to Preschool program has directly benefited more than two million children and over a million families by providing equity of access and opportunity for all children.”

“The skills and abilities children develop in preschool lead to stronger academic performance through school and a greater likelihood of undertaking further education. Preschool also improves cognitive, social and emotional outcomes, and is important in providing a strong foundation for learning.

“Yet, the Morrison government has failed to guarantee funding for this program past 2021. This is unacceptable and creates great uncertainty for the sector. It is impossible for ECE providers to plan for the future when there is no guarantee of Commonwealth funding from one year to the next.”

Ms Haythorpe says the NOUS Group's preschool funding review for the Education Council highlights the negative consequences - for preschools and for parents - of failing to lock in ongoing funding.

“The Prime Minister has described early childhood education as valuable for the children of essential workers during the COVID-19 shutdown, but he has failed to understand the importance of the role it plays in starting a child’s formal education and for providing continuity and familiarity in these unsettled times.

“There are also strong economic arguments for investing in preschool. A recent report by Price Waterhouse Coopers has shown that for every dollar invested in early childhood education, Australia could receive two dollars back through higher tax revenues, higher wages and productivity and lower spending on welfare and criminal justice.

“The benefits of a structured early childhood education program for our children are compelling and proven. It’s time for the Morrison government to make this ongoing commitment for our children and families,” Ms Haythorpe said.